Rural Responses to the Opioid Crisis in Southwestern Pennsylvania

  • The MARTI institute is proud to release its report “Rural Responses to the Opioid Crisis in Southwestern Pennsylvania.” The study was funded by the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission with funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. The major objective of the six-month study (June 2018 to December 2018) was to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sudden rise in opioid-induced overdose deaths in the region from 2015 to 2017, and the subsequent drop in deaths in 2018. The focus was on rural Southwest Pennsylvania and included Armstrong, Blair, Clarion, and Indiana counties.

    The study involved over 50 hour-long interviews of opioid and heroin users/ex-users in the four counties. Seventeen of these were interviewed a second time because they had recently survived an opioid-induced overdose. Fifty professionals were also interviewed, including single county authority directors, district attorneys, coroners, treatment providers, counselors, EMS professionals, and law enforcement officers. All of the transcripts were coded and themed by a team of researchers at IUP and included redundant analyses of over 1,500 pages of text.

    The full report is available for download.

    The team consisted of Dr. Erick Lauber (principal investigator), Dr. Victor Garcia (co-principal investigator), Dr. Melissa Swauger, Dr. Christian Vaccaro, and Dr. Alex Heckert.

    The MARTI team also wishes to gratefully acknowledge the people we worked with on this project. First, we wish to thank the users/ex-users who agreed to be anonymously interviewed for this study. Without their bravery to talk about their experiences, this research would not have been possible.

    We also wish to thank the many compassionate professionals who also agreed to be interviewed. Our thanks extend to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission for providing the resources required for this project.

    Our students also contributed a great deal to the success of this study. They include Lisa McCann (Sociology, doctoral program in Administration and Leadership Studies), Kylie Smith (Sociology, master’s program), Nicholle Williams (Sociology, master’s program), Claire Shemon (pre-med), and Ashley Niccolai (MA in Sociology and temporary adjunct faculty in Sociology). We also want to thank Roxanne Bittinger, Andrew Neel, and Jerreann Wagner for their help, and also Paul Hawkins and the students of the Applied Research Laboratory at IUP: Natalya Vodopyanova (Communications Media, doctoral program), Sean Rhodes (Applied Mathematics, master’s program), John Andelfinger (Composition and Applied Linguistics, doctoral program), Rashmi Veerabhadraiah (MBA program), Kevin Powell (Applied Mathematics, master’s program), and Cassandra Pray (Applied Mathematics, master’s program).

    Questions or comments should be directed to Dr. Erick Lauber (elauber@iup.edu).